Today President Obama announced a plan that will encourage unemployed workers to enroll in educational and retraining programs.  The President’s plan encourages states to update their unemployment compensation rules so that unemployed workers taking advantage of the program do not lose their unemployment compensation benefits.  Iowa’s current unemployment compensation scheme has such a speed-bump.

Under Iowa Code § 96.4 an unemployed individual is eligible for unemployment compensation benefits if the individual is “able to work, is available for work, and is earnestly and actively seeking work.”  TheIowa Administrative Code state that full-time students “devoting the major portion of their time and effort to their studies are not “available” for work as required by the Iowa Code unless they are “available to the same degree and to the same extent as they accrued wage credits.”  Thus, they are ineligible to receive unemployment benefits.  Exceptions include an indivdual in training with the approval of the director and training approved under 19 U.S.C. § 2296(a), the Trade Act of 1974, Relief from Injury Caused by Import Competition.

President Obama’s plan only “strongly encourages” states to alter ther current rules.  With Iowa’s unemployment rate still approximately 3.3% below the national rate, (according to March 2009 rates) I don’t anticipate many changes in Iowa’s rules in the near future.